Latest News

David Gerstenfeld
June 04, 2020

Interim Employment Department director hears 'clear message' to end mounting backlog

by Peter Wong
David Gerstenfeld, tapped by Gov. Brown, also says agency is fielding more phone calls.
PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gov. Kate Brown
June 03, 2020

Oregon Republicans launch new effort to recall Gov. Brown

by Peter Wong
Their 2019 effort fell short of mark, but GOP chairman counts on resistance to her pandemic orders
Phase 2 of Oregon governor's plan to reopen the economy.
June 03, 2020

Oregon set to lift more covid-19 restrictions Friday

by Gary A. Warner/ for the Oregon Capital Bureau
Bigger gatherings, more sports and work in offices would be allowed under 'Phase 2' reopening to be announced Thursday.
PMG PHOTO: PETER WONG - Kay Erickson via video Saturday, when she and another top Employment Department official were questioned by state lawmakers about the agency's backlog of unemployment claims and public inability to reach the staff. Gov. Kate Brown announced Sunday she asked for and got Erickson's resignation as director.
May 31, 2020

Gov. Brown fires Oregon Employment Department director

by Peter Wong
She names interim leader a day after legislative hearing critical of agency during pandemic downturn.
PMG PHOTO: PETER WONG - A beleaguered Kay Erickson, director of the Oregon Employment Department, as she fielded questions Saturday, May 30, from members of the House Business and Labor Committee during a virtual session about her agency's performance in processing unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic.
May 30, 2020

Lawmakers prod officials on backlog of unemployment claims

by Peter Wong
House panel urged direct communication with laid-off workers, not just efforts to reduce totals.
COURTESTY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - The North Fork Fire was one of 22 fires that broke out in October 2019 east of Molalla. State forestry officials say this would be the wrong time to cut state funding for fire prevention, despite the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.
May 30, 2020

Oregon forest and ocean conservation, businesses suffer during pandemic

by Gary A. Warner, For the Oregon Capital Bureau
Lost profits and lost revenue drive drop in health of timber, fishing and conservation, lawmakers are told.
PMG PHOTO: PETER WONG - The House Business and Labor Committee heard Wednesday, May 27, from officials at the Employment Department, whose performance in handling unemployment claims has drawn criticism, although more than 90% filed since March have now been processed.
May 28, 2020

Legislators will get second chance to quiz state employment officials

by Peter Wong
Director says 'I do apologize' to thousands as agency undertakes effort to reduce claims backlog.
KARI GREER/USFS - Oregon fire officials face fighting both wildfires and the spread of COVID-19 among crews at a time when the state's budget is being cut.
May 27, 2020

Oregon faces 'worst-worst' case fire scenario

by Gary A. Warner/ For the Oregon Capital Bureau
This summer's fire season requires fighting virus and wildfires amid steep state budget cuts.
COURTESY OREGON LEGISLATURE - State Sen. Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego is the new majority leader of the Oregon Senate. He succeeds Sen. Ginny Burdick of Portland, who announced in March she would give up the position., Portland Tribune - News
May 27, 2020 596

Rob Wagner chosen as new majority leader of the Oregon Senate

Lake Oswego Democrat succeeds Portland's Ginny Burdick, who stepped down but retained her seat.
Knute Buehler
May 23, 2020 1126

Buehler rules out bid for governor

The former Bend lawmaker also backs Trump's reelection despite earlier criticism.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Mark Hass has a slim edge over his Democratic rivals in the bid to be Oregon's next Secretary of State.
May 20, 2020 122

Mark Hass clings to narrowing lead in Oregon Secretary of State race

The senator maintains lead of roughly 2,000 votes over Shemia Fagan for the open statewide position
PMG ILLUSTRATION
May 20, 2020 1188

State economists: Oregon budget has a $3 billion gap

Gov. Brown says federal aid must be coupled with spending cuts to cushion blow on vital state services and schools.
Cliff Bentz
May 20, 2020 1107

Bentz wins GOP primary for Congress; Spenser leading Democrats

The race drew 11 Republicans to replace Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, who announced last fall that he would retire after 22 years in Congress.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Rep. Mitch Greenlick has died.
May 18, 2020 545

Portland Rep. Mitch Greenlick dies at age 85

The Democrat, representing Northwest Portland and parts of Washington County, planned to retire at the end of 2020.
PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Gov. Kate Brown
May 15, 2020 2237

Brown lifts some limits on 31 counties

More than half the state's estimated 4.22 million population live in counties not covered by Thursday's decisions.
May 13, 2020 857

Oregon Legislature preps for unprecedented special session

The logistics of meeting during coronavirus pandemic are unlike any in its history.
PMG FILE PHOTO - The division of Oregon's 2019-21 budget from the tax-supported general fund ($22.4 billion) and lottery proceeds ($1.3 billion). Agencies have submitted plans for a general-fund cut of 17% in the second year of the cycle; Gov. Kate Brown said she hopes federal aid will cushion the blow from shortfalls in income tax collections.
May 11, 2020 597

Oregon governor prepares spending cuts, hopes for federal aid to cushion them

Agency plans for 17% from general fund 'extremely drastic,' but tax collections expected to be short.
PMG FILE PHOTO - Rep. Diego Hernandez claims that he is being retaliated against for not backing a PERS plan endorsed by legislative leadership.
May 11, 2020 1149

Hernandez plans lawsuit against Legislature, House leaders

The lawmaker's lawyer says an investigation of sexual harassment deprives the Portland Democrat of his rights.
PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Students gather in Portland in January 2020 to call for action over climate change.
May 08, 2020 118

DEQ won't impose Oregon governor's greenhouse-gas regulations this year

The governor issued an executive order after the Republican walkouts derailed bills in 2019 and 2020.
PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Slammer Tavern boards up their bar due to the stay at home order during the COVID-19 crisis. Members of Gov. Kate Brown's staff addressed business leaders May 8 on how, when and if certain businesses may reopen safely.
May 08, 2020 87

Oregon leaders attempt to clarify rules on when, how, if businesses reopen

Gov. Kate Brown's staff addresses questions on returning safely to bars, gyms, hotels and more.

State authorities expand restrictions

Schools will close for at least two weeks, prisons are the latest venue to stop visiting, and cancellations of community events continue to build as Oregon confronts what health authorities now say is a global pandemic.

JONATHAN HOUSE/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Brown, at a press conference Thursday, said schools won't close, but gathers were canceled. Later in the day she closed schools.SALEM — From playgrounds to prisons, Oregon is facing ever-expanding steps to get ahead of the novel coronavirus that state officials estimate could infect 75,000 people in a matter of weeks.

The biggest jolt to the state came Thursday night as Gov. Kate Brown ordered every public school in Oregon closed effective Monday, March 16, sending home 583,000 students and their teachers and other school employees. Students aren't expected to return to classrooms until Wednesday, April 1, and even then they will are likely to face days without assemblies, field trips or concerts.

State officials were working up plans to sustain school-cooked meals for the thousands of children from low-income families who get breakfast and lunch at no or little cost from schools.

The decision to close schools came just five days after the state told schools to take steps to prevent the disease spread but otherwise maintain normal class operations.

"The guidance recommends against closing schools," the Oregon Health Authority said in its Sunday statement.

Brown contradicted that guidance as one school district after another on Thursday moved to shut down their own schools, a growing awareness that COVID-19 is a public health threat that government officials say justifies extraordinary measures and help from every citizen in the state. Brown said it was proving "impossible" for schools to function normally.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said children are no more at risk than adults to get the disease and their symptoms are generally mild if they do.

The impacts of the increasing state restrictions were taking hold from one end of the state to the other as organizations complied with new state orders banning large gatherings of more than 250 people. That meant everything from concerts to weddings were to be scrubbed and churches were urged to find ways to replace traditional services.

In Vale, the annual crab feed scheduled for Saturday, March 21, to support local firefighters was converted from a sit-down dinner to a drive-by event, with diners grabbing orders to go. In Salem, the Oregon State Capitol ended tours and the Salem City Club, a local civic group, canceled its Friday gatherings, including one scheduled to update members on the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor has already commanded that visits be severely restricted to the 30,000 Oregonians living in nursing homes, assisted living and residential care facilities. In detailed guidance issued Thursday, the state is recommending that until at least early April those over 60 or with underlying medical conditions avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, a move that is likely to impact every senior citizen center in Oregon.

The Oregon Department of Corrections acknowledged the emerging health risks, taking the unprecedented step of stopping visiting to the state's 14 prisons and their 14,435 inmates, now referred to as adults in custody.

"This decision was not made lightly and we understand the impact this necessary action will have on the people in our custody and their families," said Colette Peters, Corrections Department director.

She said there were no known cases within the prisons and the results were negative for one inmate who was tested for the virus. The agency has identified 1,250 inmates at the highest risk for getting the novel coronavirus.

The Health Authority on Thursday reported that six more residents at a Lebanon nursing home for veterans tested positive for COVID-19, bringing to eight so far infected. State officials said they didn't know the source of the disease at Edward Allworth Veterans' Home.

Pat Allen, Health Authority director, described the home as "state-of-the-art" and that residents had individual rooms.

The additional cases pushed to 30 the number of Oregonians that testing shows were infected with COVID-19. The Health Authority listed confirmed cases in 11 counties.

About eight out of 10 of those who are infected will have mild symptoms. The best step for those individuals is to stay home, health authorities said.

"The vast majority will recover without needing intervention," said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer.

State and federal health authorities say the elderly are most susceptible to the virus. There is no treatment and no vaccine.

In her guidance Thursday, Brown encouraged but didn't mandate that employers take steps to protect workers, changing worksites so employees were three feet away from each other, staggering schedules and avoiding face-to-face meetings. She also said businesses should avoid all "non-essential work travel" and limit conferences and trade shows.

The Oregon Legislature readied to act as well, with House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, establishing a new Special Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response, which will hold virtual meetings.

Kotek and Courtney said in a statement Thursday that the committee would "identify actions to support short-term economic relief to low-income workers and small businesses." The committee also will make budget recommendations and suggest changes to Oregon law that might be needed "to assist with the public health emergency."

The committee will be co-chaired by Sen. Arnie Roblin, D-Coos Bay, and Rep. Paul Holvey of Eugene. Others appointed include Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas; Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend; Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland; Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie. From the House, members include Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Cove; Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley; Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth; Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem; Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego; and Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass.